The bald truth | Sunday Observer

The bald truth

25 October, 2020

Going bald or having little or no hair on your head can be a frustrating experience. Men usually start losing their hair in their 40s and 50s. Most of them do not worry about it. However, if you start going bald in your teens, it is really a serious problem. One of my teenage friends started losing his hair and he tried all types of medications recommended by friends and well-wishers. One day, his class teacher asked him to apply some medicated oil imported from Japan. He started using the oil regularly. Within three months, he lost all his hair!

Not only ordinary people but also leading men such as kings and presidents did not like their baldness. They tried to hide their baldness by wearing hairpieces. When Sean Connery, of 007 fame, was picked to play the main role in a detective film, his director asked him to wear a hairpiece to cover his bald patch. Even today most actors hide their bald patches with hairpieces.

Male Pattern Baldness

When the Roman Senate granted Julius Caesar permission to wear his laurel wreath at all times, he was pleased in part as it cloaked his baldness. The hair men value so highly is really a sprouting bulb of fibrous protein that waves 100,000 strong upon the average head. Whether you believe it or not, the hair on your head is always growing – and always falling out. According to medical authorities, we lose about 100 hairs every day. As far as balding men are concerned, their falling hairs are not always replaced.

Men have been wondering why their hair is falling. Some of them think that wearing tight hats, haircuts, reduced blood circulation, vitamin deficiencies, dandruff, clogged hair follicles, oily scalp, head shape or excessive thinking lead to baldness. But such claims have been proved to be wrong. This is because men lose hair due to many reasons beyond their control. The causes may be related to ageing, hormones or even genes. However, no effective remedy has been found to halt loss of hair and the Male Pattern Baldness has come to stay.

Some women also lose their hair, may be due to various diseases or distress. That means there is also a Female Pattern Baldness in society. Early Benedictine monks used to remove a wide swath of hair from the forehead, leaving a fringe around the sides and back. Some people believe that baldness is hereditary. In other words, baldness is bequeathed to sons by their fathers. However, it can skip generations and later come back to afflict unsuspecting sons.

As a teenager, I had a lot of hair, but I was surrounded by people who were going bald. My father was not bothered about his baldness, but most of my uncles were consulting doctors to find a remedy for their baldness. Nobody has found an effective remedy. Then all of a sudden a new trend started. Not only old men but also youngsters began to shave their heads to get the bald look.

Medical literature

When I reached 40s, I started going bald. Although I was a bit worried about it at first, I reconciled with my fate. Then I began to dig into medical literature to find causes of hair falling and remedies available to arrest it. I found that the process of going bald usually starts in your 20s when the baldness genes instruct hair follicles (glands from which hair grows) to make excessive amounts of 5-alpha reductase.

In the meantime, the male hormone testosterone combines with this enzyme to produce dihydrotestosterone, which is the real culprit. Under its forceful influence, some follicles shrink, producing thinner and thinner hairs until they grow only a light fuzz. Others cease producing altogether.

Effective remedy

According to Aristotle and Hippocrates, eunuchs did not lose their hair. If you go by the logic of it, castrating can be the most effective method of preventing baldness. However, no sensible man will agree to be castrated just to save his hair! On the other hand, a myth has arisen that bald men are exceptionally virile. Whether it is true or not, baldness requires only a normal level of hormones.

Baldness has troubled men over centuries. As they believed that baldness was a minus point in their virility, they had tried various methods of treatment to get rid of baldness. At first, they shampooed their hair with tar, petroleum, goose dung and cow urine. Some of them stuck their heads into rubber caps connected to vacuum pumps to draw such recalcitrant hairs to the surface. However, all such methods were proved to be of no use.

Scientists have not given up their quest to find an effective remedy to halt baldness. Hair transplanting seems to be catching up with some actors who wish to remain young looking as far as possible. In this process, some plugs of healthy hair from the back or sides of the head are surgically removed and grafted to the front and top of the scalp. Alternatively, some people get a scalp reduction. In this process, sections of the crown are removed and the skin of the sides of the head is pulled up to cover the gap. When I see so many bald men going about their business, I get a queer feeling that they are not bothered about such painful procedures.

In recent times, scientists have experimented with various drugs to get rid of baldness. In an experiment, they coated the scalp twice daily with a certain drug which was originally used as an anti-hypertension medicine. Most of the people who underwent the treatment reported unexpected hair growth sometimes in unwanted places, such as the forehead. As a result, some doctors and users of the drug used to say, “Cosmetic acceptability is in the eye of the beholder.”

Very few poems have been written on bald men. Out of them I find the following anonymous poem quite entertaining:

The Bald Cavalier
When periwigs came first in wear,
Their use was to supply
And cover the bald pate with hair,
To keep it warm and dry.
For this good end, our Cavalier
Determined one to buy
Which did so natural appear
That it deceived the eye.
But riding out one windy day,
Behold! a sudden squall
Soon blew his feathered hat away,
And periwig and all.
He joined the laugh with noddle bare,
And sang in concert tone,
‘How should I save another’s hair,
Who could not keep his own?

Until scientists locate the baldness gene and engineer it out of existence, all baldies may have to take refuge in William Shakespeare’s words: “What he hath scanted men in hair, he hath given them in wit.”

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